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India in General Election Mode
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
The Congress Party ' Leftists impasse has placed India in a General Election mode ever since the Leftists warned the Congress Government a few weeks ago that they would withdraw support if it proceeded ahead in 'operationalizing' the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The shadow-boxing between the two has been going on these last few weeks where one has witnessed both making the right political noises about political stability and the Government being allowed to complete its full term till April 2009, but at the same time the Congress Government has been busy preparing for premature General Elections sometime in early 2008, a year ahead of schedule.
The Indo-US Nuclear Deal and its domestic political ramifications stand discussed in a number of my earlier columns over the last one year. The Congress Government by its unwarranted secrecy in the finalization of the Nuclear Deal and its arrogant complacency in not seeking a bipartisan political support across India's political spectrum now stands endangered in the completion of its full term of Government.
In its wake India is now left with the prospects of an early General Election. The political churning has commenced and would pick up more momentum at the national level as soon as the State Assembly elections are over in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat of December 2007.
The best indicators of early General Elections were provided by Mr. M. J. Akbar, the reputed Editor-in-Chief of 'The Asian Age' daily. He wrote a few weeks back that the best indicator of an impending General Election is when a Congress Government starts throwing 'political sops' to the Indian Muslim Community. This is precisely what the Congress Government has indulged in as it battles the Leftists on the Nuclear Deal issue.
If the Congress Government has gambled by not giving in to the Leftists demands on the Nuclear Deal issue and thereby going in for an early General Election, then the questions that arise as to what prompted such a decision are (1) The Congress Party would have got indications from its intelligence agencies that the standing of the Congress Party is high at present and it could romp home by a wide margin on the own strength (2) The Congress Party could gain mileage from the political sympathy generated by the Leftist's rejection of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal (3) The threat of General Elections could possibly make the Leftists blink and force them to give up their opposition.
If one goes by the prevalent political mood in India and discounting the fallacious sample surveys of India's electronic media, one could say with a fair degree of certainty that none of the above factors would be operative. The Indian public has not given any substantive indicators to suggest as on today that it would bring back the Congress Government to power to form the next Government on the strength of a solid independent Congress majority.
India's political landscape today presents a bleak picture in terms of any of the major parties riding a wave of political support within the country. The resulting verdict of any early General Election is likely to be as fragmented as earlier with no clear winner in sight.
The ruling Congress Party and the main Opposition Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party are both devoid of charismatic political leadership at the apex level. The other smaller political parties which either constitute the ruling UPA coalition or the opposition NDA combine are scared still to face the electorate early for they stand the danger of reduced members after the next General Elections.
In terms of political issues that could prove the turning point for any of the political parties and provide an emotive appeal, none exist. The same old hackneyed themes are likely to be repeated again.
In an environment marked by great political uncertainty the run-up to early General Elections is not likely to throw up predictable electoral alliances to fight the General Elections jointly. That is only likely to occur once the electoral arithmetic becomes clear after the results of the General Elections are out. The reason being that both the Congress and the BJP depend upon regional political satraps whose political agenda at the regional level differs from any national agenda of the Congress Party or the BJP.
In terms of comparative difference from earlier General Elections, one major deviation seems likely. It is likely that for the first time in Indian General Elections, foreign policy issues could enter as electoral issues in the early General Elections.
The Congress Party as the ruling party could be besieged during the coming General Elections to account for the Indo-US strategic partnership, the weaknesses of its Pakistan appeasement policies, parleys with Pakistan military dictator and its soft approaches to Kashmiri separatists enjoying external patronage.
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